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1 Project management software Mariuţa ŞERBAN and Raluca Mariana ŞTEFAN Spiru Haret University of Bucharest, Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics Bucharest 13 Ion Ghica St., Sector 3, Bucharest, Romania, Abstract A project is an ensemble of temporary endeavor framed in time through a defined beginning and an end, constrained by his allocated funds, undertaken to meet particular goals. They talk a lot about European funds and the European and international project management, but too little about that, in order to coordinate these projects, experts use the advantages of project management software. Rational Plan is an alternative to Microsoft Project and both of them help project managers to make the right decisions for the working team to achieve project completion. Rational plan contains several types of applications for managing various projects. Keywords: project management, software, RationalPlan. Rezumat Proiectul reprezintă un ansamblu de eforturi temporare, încadrate în timp printr-un început şi un sfârşit, constrâns de resursele alocate lui, urmărind îndeplinirea obiectivului prestabilit. Se vorbeşte foarte mult despre fonduri europene şi despre managementul proiectelor europene şi internaţionale, dar prea puţin despre faptul că, pentru a coordona aceste proiecte, specialiştii folosesc avantajele oferite de aplicatii software pentru managementul proiectelor. RationalPlan constituie o alternativă la Microsoft Project şi împreună ajută managerii de proiect să ia deciziile potrivite pentru echipa de lucru pentru a realiza finalizarea proiectului. RationalPlan conţine mai multe tipuri de aplicaţii destinate conducătorilor de diverse proiecte. Cuvinte-cheie: managementul proiectelor, aplicaţii software, RationalPlan. 1. Introduction Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives. It is often closely related to and sometimes conflated with program management. A project is a temporary endeavor, having a defined beginning and end, usually constrained by date, but can be also constrained by funding or deliverables, undertaken to meet particular goals and objectives, usually to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast to business as usual or operations, which are repetitive, permanent or semi-permanent functional work to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often found to be quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and the adoption of separate management. The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the preconceived project constraints. Typical constraints are scope, time, and budget. The secondary and more ambitious challenge is to optimize the allocation and integration of inputs necessary to meet pre-defined objectives. 2. Project Management Software In order to coordinate the projects, the specialists use the advantages offered by project management software. Factors variations in the durations of activities that exist in the structure of a project are commonplace in any economic domain. 195

2 Papers of the Sibiu Alma Mater University Conference, Fifth Edition, March 2011, Sibiu Volume 1 To model variations in activities and produce more effective and reliable project duration estimates has been used stochastic network analysis. Some of the most important tasks of project management software are: scheduling, calculating critical path and providing information. Scheduling a series of events or tasks is one of the most common purposes and the complexity of the schedule can vary considerably depending on how the tool offered by the project management software is used. There can be some challenges on the way to make the best project possible like: many interdependencies between events, scheduling people s work and resources required by that and scheduling the various tasks commonly termed resource, managing the uncertainties in the estimates of the duration of each task. Durations directly determine the length of the whole project. Some software applications can highlight these tasks and they are often a good candidate for any optimization effort. Project planning software is expected to provide information to various people or stakeholders, and can be used to measure and justify the level of effort required to complete the necessary project. Some of the requirements include: tasks lists for people and allocation schedules for resources, overview information on how long tasks will take to complete, early warning of any risks to the project, information on workload, for planning holidays, evidence of activities and resources, historical information on how projects have progressed, and in particular, how actual and planned performance are related, optimum utilization of available resource. The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is an estimating tool that defines a project in terms of its deliverables and it provides a method for breaking down deliverables into meaningful units of work. With this breakdown, it can be established the work hierarchy and create a foundation for the other elements of the estimating process. 3. Approaches Project management software can be implemented as a program that runs on the desktop of each user. This gives the most responsive and graphicallyintense style of interface. Desktop applications store their data in a file, even if some of them have the ability to collaborate with other users, or to store their data in a central database. Even a filebased project plan can be shared between users if it's on a networked drive and only one user accesses it at a time. Desktop applications can be written to run in a heterogeneous environment of multiple operating systems. Web-based approach of the project management software is the possibility of being implemented as a Web application, accessed through an Intranet, or an Extranet using a Web browser. This approach has all the usual advantages and disadvantages of web applications. It can be accessed from any type of computer without installing software on user's computer; it has ease of access-control; it has naturally multi-user; the user has only one software version and installation to maintain; there is centralized data repository; it is slower to respond than desktop applications; project information cannot be available when the user or the server is offline; some solutions allow the user to go offline with a copy of the data. A non-specialized tool is one used at home, typically to manage lifestyle or home projects, is a personal project management application. Personal project management software typically involves simpler interfaces. There are systems programmed with the assumption that only one person will ever need to edit the project plan at once. This kind of systems is called single-user system and it mat be used in small companies, or ones where only a few people are involved in project planning. This category is formed by desktop applications generally. 4. Features A collaborative system is designed to support multiple users modifying different sections of the plan at once; for instance, updating the areas they personally are responsible for such that those estimates get integrated into the overall plan. Webbased tools, including Extranets, form this category, but they have the limitation that they can only be used when the user has live Internet access. To address this limitation, client-server-based software tools exist that provide a tool that runs on users' desktop computer and replicate project and task information to other project team members through a central server when users connect periodically to the network. Some tools allow team members to check out their schedules (and others' as read only) to work on them while not on the network. When reconnecting to the database, all changes are synchronized with the other schedules. 196

3 An integrated system combines project management or project planning, with many other aspects of company life. Projects can have bug tracking issues assigned to each project, the list of project customers becomes a customer relationship management module, and each person on the project plan has their own task lists, calendars, and messaging functionality associated with their projects. Specialized tools like Source Forge integrate project management software with source control (CVS) software and bug-tracking software, so that each piece of information can be integrated into the same system. 5. Critics The following may apply in general, or to specific products, or to some specific functions within products, may not be derived from a sound project management method. Displaying the Gantt chart view by default encourages users to focus on timed task scheduling too early, rather than identifying objectives, deliverables and the imposed logical progress of events (dig the trench first to put in the drain pipe). The project management software may be inconsistent with the type of project management method. This can happen when traditional (e.g. Waterfall) meets agile (e.g. Scrum). Focusing primarily on the planning phase does not offer enough functionality for project tracking, control and in particular plan-adjustment. There may be excessive dependency on the first paper print-out of a project plan, which is simply a snapshot at one moment in time. The plan is dynamic and as the project progresses the plan must be able to change and to accommodate tasks that are completed early, late, re-sequenced etc. Good management software should not only facilitate all that, but assist with impact assessment and communication of plan changes. It does not make a clear distinction between the planning phase and post planning phase, leading to user confusion and frustration when the software does not behave as expected. Shortening the duration of a task when an additional human resource is assigned to it while the project is still being planned is just one example. It offers complicated features to meet the needs of project management or project scheduling professionals, which must be understood in order to effectively use the product. Additional features may be so complicated as to be of no use to anyone. Complex task prioritization and resource leveling algorithms for example can produce results that make no intuitive sense, and over allocation is often more simply resolved manually. Some people may achieve better results using simpler technique, (e.g. pen and paper), yet feel pressured into using project management software by company policy. Like PowerPoint, project management software might shield the manager from important interpersonal contact. But the new types of software are challenging the traditional definition of Project Management. Users of project management software are not actually managing a discrete project. For example, managing the ongoing marketing for an alreadyreleased product is not a project in the traditional sense of the term; it does not involve management of discrete resources working on something with a discrete beginning or end. Groupware applications now add project management features that directly support this type of workflow-oriented project management. The end-users of such tools will refer to it as such, and the de-facto definition of the term Project Management may change. 6. Rational Plan Project Management Software Rational Plan is Romanian project management software designed to help project managers and teams to create consistent project plans, allocate resources and analyze workload, track work progress, estimate projects' costs and manage budgets. Rational Plan is a great alternative to Microsoft Project with some extra-features like multi-project management (only for Multi Project version). Rational Plan is designed to help both project managers and teams to create consistent project plans, allocate resources and analyze workload, track work progress, estimate projects' costs and manage budgets. If there are applications in the area of construction, engineering, services and consulting, software development or any other business field, Rational Plan can help to complete your projects. The most important reasons for using Rational Plan are: easily manage company's projects and share resources between them (multi project version); gets resources and finances under control (realistic cost estimates mechanisms, detailed cash-flow screening down to tasks and resources level); brings project's critical issues to your attention (over allocated resources, critical path with 197

4 Papers of the Sibiu Alma Mater University Conference, Fifth Edition, March 2011, Sibiu Volume 1 configurable slack from which activities become critical); tracks project evolution in terms of completion, time and costs; provides a clean way to break down your project, build schedules, allocate resources and manage budgets; provides a step by step project guide which walks you through the project management process. RationalPlan from Stand By Soft Company is designed with project managers and their teams in mind. It helps estimate the cost of a project, manage budgets, track work progress, analyze workload and allocate resources. 7. Features of Rational Plan Create project interdependencies, analyze all your projects' data with Project Portfolio view, define companywide resources are just three of the features that recommend this software. It also has several collaboration features. Stand By Soft is continuously working to ensure all of the collaboration need needed. The team can communicate with each other using methods outside of the program. However, that would take away from the convenience this program is trying to provide the user. For any team in order to succeed they must be able to communicate effectively. Rational Plan is effective, but not the best, in this category. There are some surprising features of Rational Plan. First, he has the option Check In/Check Out that refers to resource management, which keeps track of key materials and objects so that is known where something is at any given time. Another surprising aspect about Rational Plan is the sparse set of features it has for project management, which is supposed to be its strong suit. The essentials for a solid project management program are given, but not enough and this lack of features makes the program easier to use. Rational Plan Multi Project is an alternative to Microsoft Project with some features like multiproject management. Apart from the well known Gantt chart view it also provides a separate Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) view to help the project manager to focus on the very important task of breaking down the project rather than distracting your attention to other issues that would only come up at a later stage. The application is covering project management area from WBS construction, project planning and scheduling to critical path management, over allocated resources detection, progress tracking, cost estimation etc. Gantt chart support as well as various time line reports is also provided. It has been released Rational Plan for the Mac OS X Snow Leopard platform. Rational Plan is a project management software application developed to assist project managers in creating plans, tracking progress, allocating resources, managing budgets and analyzing workload. Besides the upgrade to Snow Leopard the new version comes with a significant increase in execution speed for resource sheets, file type association on silent install. Rational Plan suite includes: Rational Plan Single Project - project management software for single projects; Rational Plan Multi Project- project management software for multiple projects, projects that are interconnected through dependencies and share common resource; Rational Plan Project Viewer - free project management software viewer (from project stakeholders to team workers) to view projects details. Rational Plan is designed as an affordable alternative to Microsoft Project with some extrafeatures like multi-project management and it is covering project management area from WBS construction, project planning and scheduling to critical path management, over allocated resources detection, progress tracking, cost estimation, etc. Gantt chart support as well as various time line reports is also provided. It offers the most important capabilities of a good project management software while being able to operate on various platforms starting with Windows, Mac, Linux and all other Java enabled platforms. 8. Schedule Risk Analysis Methods Project scheduling is required for good project management, and the schedule represents the project plan under a specific set of assumptions, often that it will avoid new risks or even those that have occurred on previous occasions. The typical Critical Path Method (CPM) schedule assumes that the project team knows how long the scheduled activities will take. Yet, the experienced project manager knows that duration values so precisely stated are actually only estimates based on assumptions that could be wrong. A schedule risk 198

5 analysis explores the implications for the project's schedule of risk to the activity durations and also identifies the most important schedule risks. This analysis, building on and extending CPM scheduling, will result in a more accurate estimate of completion and provide an early opportunity for planning effective risk mitigation actions. Practical Schedule Risk Analysis contains a complete treatment of schedule risk analysis from basic to advanced concepts. The methods are introduced at the simplest level: Why is the duration uncertain? And how do we represent this uncertainty with a probability distribution? Based on the following questions it can be elaborate a good project: How does uncertainty of activities along a path lead to more uncertainty of the path's completion date? How can a schedule with parallel paths be riskier than each of the paths individually? How can we represent risks about activities that are not in the schedule at all? 9. Project s Cost The tools and techniques used for Estimate Costs are: expert judgment, analogous estimating, parametric estimating, bottom-up estimating, threepoint estimates, reserve analysis, cost of quality, project management estimating software and vendor bid analysis. Value Analysis approach is used to find more affordable, less costly methods for accomplishing the same task. The Estimate Costs process takes the following inputs: scope baseline, project schedule, human resource plan, risk register, enterprise environmental factors and organizational process assets. Depreciation is a technique that is used to compute the estimated value of any object after few years. There are three types of depreciation techniques: a) Straight line depreciation. The same amount is deprecated (reduced) from the cost each year. b) Double-declining balance In the first year there is a higher deduction in the value - twice the amount of straight line. Each year after that the deduction is 40% less than the previous year. c) Sum of year depreciation For instance, the life of an object is five years. The total of one to five is fifteen. In first year we deduce 5/15 from the cost, in second year we deduce 4/15, and so on. Analogous Estimating is an estimating technique and it has the following characteristics: Estimates are based on past projects information; It is less accurate when compared to bottom-up estimation; It is a top-down approach; It takes less time when compared to bottom-up estimation; It is a form of an expert judgment. In Parametric Modeling Estimation, it can be used a mathematical model to make an estimate out of two types. Regression Analysis is a mathematical model based upon historical information. Learning Curve model is based upon the principal that the cost per unit decreases as more work gets completed. Bottom up estimation is same as WBS estimation. It involves estimating each work item and adding the estimates to get the total project estimate. 10. Conclusions Project management software is a term covering many types of software, including scheduling, cost control and budget management, resource allocation, collaboration software, communication, quality management and documentation or administration systems, which appear as a result of the market s demand to deal with the complexity of large projects. When there are multiple larger projects, project management software can be very useful. Nevertheless, one should probably not use management software if only a single small project is involved, as management software incurs a larger time-overhead than is worthwhile. References Le Dantec T Managementul proiectelor prin exemple, Editura C.H.Beck, Bucharest. Curteanu D Managementul proiectelor publice, Editura EfiCon Press, Bucharest. Gherasim Z., Dumitru A., Andronie M., Ştefan R.M. & Şerban M Managementul proiectelor, Editura Fundaţiei România de Mâine. * * * * * * * * * 199

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